Duff McKagan Felt ‘Culture Shock’ Upon Meeting Slash
McKagan joined Pearl Jam’s Stone Gossard on the latest episode of Spotify’s Rock This With Allison Hagendorf podcast. The rockers discussed their formative years in Seattle’s burgeoning punk scene in the early '80s, as well as McKagan’s move to Los Angeles, where he quickly linked up with Slash and original Guns N’ Roses drummer Steven Adler.
“I met [Slash] and Steven Adler at Canter’s,” McKagan said, referencing the 24-hour Jewish deli off the Sunset Strip that became an all-hours hot spot for rock musicians. “I walked in. His name was Slash in the ad. We talked on the payphone, and I thought he’d be some, like, punker guy like me. ‘Cause it was ’84.”
By this point, McKagan explained, punk’s early-‘80s popularity had started to dwindle, and he and his future bandmates were considering their next moves.
“By ’84 — and [Seattle grunge pioneers] Green River is a good testament to this — by ’84, people were looking, like, ‘Whatever’s gonna be next is gonna be on our shoulder. Punk’s done,’” McKagan said. “The hardcore had come in and kind of ruined a lot of punk scenes. It was these suburban jock guys who shaved their heads and started beating up people and doing ‘sieg heils.’ It was like, ‘This is not punk, guys.’ So whatever was next, it was gonna be up to us.”
You can listen to the interview below.
McKagan, whose musical style and aesthetic were still clearly indebted to his Seattle upbringing, was a bit surprised to see two longhaired rockers waiting for him inside Canter’s.
“So, this guy’s name was Slash. The influences he liked were Fear, Aerosmith, Alice Cooper. I’m, like, okay, but this guy’s going kind of where I’m going,” McKagan said. “I had blue hair, short blue hair. I walked into Canter’s. And they told me what booth they were gonna be at. So I found the booth, and it’s these two longhaired guys, and I’m, like, ‘Whoa.’ It was kind of a culture shock, and I think I was a little bit of a culture shock to them. But we sat down and started talking, and we talked about music. And that’s the thing – it’s a universal thing.”
The initial culture shock obviously did not deter the musicians, as Guns N’ Roses became enormously successful and earned the best-selling debut album of all time with Appetite for Destruction. As soon as McKagan started jamming with Slash, he knew he’d found a great collaborator.
“We went back to Slash’s house, his mom’s basement, and he started playing acoustic guitar,” McKagan said. “I had played with these guys. Stone mentioned [Seattle punk guitarist] Paul Solger – he was the guitar player. He could play leads and he was smooth and slick, and I thought he was the best guy on the West Coast. And I got in this basement with Slash, and I’m, like, ‘Oh, wow.'”
Last week, McKagan’s pre-Guns N’ Roses band the Living released their seven-song debut album, the aptly-titled 1982, which they recorded that year. The band also included drummer Greg Gilmore, who went on to play with Gossard in Seattle grunge and alt-metal group Mother Love Bone. The Living released 1982 on Gossard’s Loosegroove Records.